Yesterday, I posted on making a spectacle of living green as a way of bringing attention to our environmental emergency. It turns out I'm not the only one who uses the strategy. Lots of readers left behind comments on their lifestyle strategies for getting attention (see the end of the post). Among those readers is Beth Terry, who writes Fake Plastic Fish. This is a guest post by her.
These days, I find myself looking at life as a potential blog post, not unlike the Truman Show. Whether I am publicly picking up loose plastic bags or bottle caps off the street, carrying my own reusable bags, utensils, containers, napkins, and even glass drinking straws, each interaction I have with a sales clerk or waiter or butcher (asking that the chicken for our cats be ground into our own stainless steel pot) is both an opportunity to educate those in front of me as well as the readers of my blog.
One of my funniest Truman Show days was when I strapped a huge box of Styrofoam peanuts (a gift from my dad) to the back of my bike and pedaled it through the streets of Oakland, returning it to the warehouse to ask that it be reused. While the experience was wonderful in itself, I found myself rehearsing how I’d later write about it on Fake Plastic Fish.
Being so public can look like showing off. Resentment or guilt may arise in others when I bring my own dishes to work or ask the host of a party (someone I know pretty well) for a glass instead of a plastic cup. We’re all human. And guilt is a human emotion. I don’t take it personally. As one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Byron Katie likes to say, “There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God's.” Other people’s guilt is none of mine.
But I do realize my no-plastic rules are extreme. And I don’t expect anyone else to obsess about plastic the way I do. By making my life and decisions public, I hope to simply show others what is possible. And by sharing my failures as well as successes, by giving myself a break every now and then, I hope others will realize that perfection is not necessary or possible. Simply trying every day is all that’s required.
And here is what some other readers had to say about living greenly out loud:
"I started giving extreme low-key kids' parties, and I have heard parents comment on how much fun they are having and what a relief to be at a relaxed event. This means - picnic in the park, maybe next to a public pool or lake; simple food; home-made cake (maybe from a box mix even - 2 boxes go in my 11x17 pan and feed a large crowd, with home-made icing). Few or no planned activities beyond - be at the park/swim/run around." --Leila Abu-Saba
"I keep a Rubbermaid collapsible container in my purse for restaurant leftovers which consistently draws comments. It folds flat to insert into my purse, and you pop it open to receive the leftovers. Great for the earth, and it serves as a good way to prevent me from eating too much without making me feel guilty that I'm using." --Peggy Brennan
"I have asked the sushi guy to stop putting that little green strip of plastic fake grass on my plate. It's a little thing, but I'm hoping eventually he gives up plastic grass for all his customers." --Darx
"I get into conversations all the time about not having a car (it's a very unusual choice in this area unless you are a student). Also about my knitting on the bus (conversations about why I make my own clothes)." --Deb G
"No one is more shocked at any idea we've put in place than life without a fridge - during the winter, natural refrigeration is provided by, well, winter, and the rest of the year, we rotate our little ice packs and do just fine. The sheer shock of someone not having a ubiquitous fridge really moves a lot of people." --Sharon
"Last earth day I decided to go to the woods beside the local high school to pick up trash and recycling. As I was working away a jogger stopped to ask about what I was doing. Turns out he was the civics instructor at the school and told me on the spot that he'd get the class out on Monday to work on the rest (it is a huge area, my afternoon's work barely made a dent). I went walking a few days later and couldn't believe my eyes.. the woods were trash-free. I was really, really happy about that." --julie
"I can't even count the number of people who have either reduced their meat consumption or gone veg themselves after following my example of veganism. Even those who at first ridiculed me ("Wouldn't you like to eat a hamburger once in a while?") - can be counted among my 'converts.'" --Sara
"I use cloth diapers on my son (except when he's at day care, because my daycare provider insists on disposables, at least I do Seventh Generation ones) and that seems to make an impression in my moms groups." --Jessica
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.